Portrait Photography Basics – Cameras

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Portrait Photography Basics - Camera

Without the kit, you won’t get far, but which camera type is ideal for portrait photography? There’s more to it than just a high pixel count-if you don’t print huge image enlargements to go on the wall, much of the pixel detail will be wasted anyway. Instead, look for the size of the sensor, the quality of the lens and the ability to control the camera settings completely.

What are the 4 types of cameras? Major types of cameras are Phone Cameras, Compact Cameras, Mirrorless Cameras, and DLSR Cameras. 


Overview: Portrait Photography Basics – Cameras

Phone Cameras
Compact Cameras
Mirrorless / Interchangeable Lens Cameras
DSLR Cameras
Sensor Size
Which Format Raw or JPEG?

Phone Cameras

Portrait Photography Basics Cameras 1 - Portrait Photography Basics - Cameras

Phone Cameras now have huge numbers of megapixels. But do not mislead, these pixels are clutched on small sensors to fit into the other electronics on the telephone. This results in less light being received by every pixel.

So phone cameras do not necessarily produce better photos than a less pixel camera but a bigger sensor. This is especially evident with low-light pictures which have high digital noise levels. Noise means random color pixels that appear in areas where one solid color should be used.

READ: Smartphone Photography – 6 Quick Tips

Phone Cameras also have one fixed lens and therefore the focal length is not necessarily flattering, particularly for close-ups. Many phone cameras won’t allow you to adjust exposure settings and this will reduce your creativity.

Camera phones are handy and comfortable on the plus side. The best camera is the one that’s with you.



Compact Cameras

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Compact cameras generally have larger lenses and sensors than the phone cameras, which allows for more light and provides a wider area to be recorded. This provides compact cameras with superior image quality while providing similar portability levels. The image quality of some new compact cameras in almost all models is more than enough for the average casual portrait photographer.

The main constraining with this camera type is that the lens is attached permanently, so only the lens supplied with the camera can be used. A compact camera lens may have a good zoom range, but the background will not blur in the same way that a prime lens can be on a DSLR camera.

READ: 7 Quick Tips to Create Buttery Bokeh

Compact cameras can’t beat the speed of DSLR cameras. Compact cameras start and focus slower and shoot slower. While this can only be fractions of a second, it can be the difference between capturing the expression of someone and missing the moment.

You also need to ensure that the exposure settings can be adjusted manually. Some compact camera modes have been simplified. Such as portraits, scenery, sunsets, sports, etc. But your images are limited by the camera’s decisions without full creative control over the exposure.



Mirrorless / Interchangeable Lens Cameras

Mirrorless/Interchangeable Lens Cameras are usually slightly larger than compact cameras, but they are significantly smaller than DSLR cameras because they do not contain a mirror. However, they still allow you to change the lens and also have a larger sensor than compact cameras and phone cameras, which enhances the image quality. Some mirrorless cameras have sensors of the same size as DSLR cameras, which provide comparable image quality.

READ: DSLR vs. Mirrorless Cameras: Pros and Cons

A mirrorless camera is much quieter than a DSLR camera due to the lack of a mirror system in use. Many of them also work more like compact cameras than DSLRs. So anyone who is used to a point and shoot camera will feel more familiar with mirrorless cameras. This makes them less frightening for budding photographers than DSLR cameras covered by dials and buttons.

Some mirrorless cameras accept DSLR lenses with a lens adapter, which is useful if you already have a range of lenses to use. It is also beneficial because mirrorless cameras are a relatively new breed of digital camera, so there are fewer dedicated lenses to choose from at present.

READ: Best Mirrorless Cameras for 2019

Although the technology is rapidly improving, the autofocus system is still not as good in most mirrorless cameras as in most DSLRs. For example, some mirrorless cameras struggle to focus in low light, while others fail to focus on a moving subject. This can mean you end up missing the moment in portrait photography, or the subject is out of focus.



DSLR Cameras

Portrait Photography Basics Cameras 1 - Portrait Photography Basics - Cameras

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras have a mirror that reflects the image coming from the lens to the camera’s viewfinder, so you can see the camera’s sensor’s accurate view. The DSLR cameras are named after this “single lens” viewing system.

DSLRs have an image sensor much larger than camera phones and nearly all compact cameras. This means that each light-sensitive “photosite” on the sensor is larger, so that more light can be captured.

Although a DSLR camera may have a lower pixel count than a compact camera, this does not necessarily mean that the image quality is lower. This is especially important when shooting at low light levels because the DSLR cameras produce images that contain less digital noise than other types of cameras.

READ: DSLR vs. Mirrorless Cameras: Pros and Cons

As you can change the lens you are using, DSLR cameras are also more flexible than compact cameras. This means that you can obtain better quality lenses that are particularly good for specific purposes, such as portraits. Your images will generally only be as good as the lens on the front of your camera. So it is a major advantage over compact cameras to upgrade the lens. DSLR cameras also make it easier to produce popular portrait photos with a beautiful, out of focus effect.

Hundreds of other accessories can be purchased for a DSLR camera. Photography accessories vary from filters attached to the lens front to external flash units for powerful, artificial lighting. Even if you decide to buy a new camera body in a couple of years, it should still be compatible with the accessories you have. The only exception is if you switch brands, as the lenses for one camera system (Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic, etc.) will not necessarily fit on another camera.

DSLR cameras have a disadvantage in terms of bulk and cost. Although the size varies, even the smallest DSLR camera outweighs a compact camera, which makes it more cumbersome. DSLR cameras are also more costly than most compact cameras, especially when the cost of the camera is added to additional accessories.



Sensor Size

Camera brands often advertise much more prominently the number of pixels in their cameras than the image sensor size. However, the latter is much more important. This is because the sensor size determines how large each photosite is on the sensor that is sensitive to light.

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30.3 Megapixel full-frame CMOS censor

Each photosite records the light generating a pixel in the final image, which means that larger photosites record more light than smaller photosites. This generally results in a better picture, which means that fewer pixels are often preferred on a physically larger sensor than a small sensor with a high pixel count.

To give you an idea of the difference;

  • The sensor of a typical phone camera is about 5mm across its longest edge.
  • A compact camera generally has a 5-18mm wide sensor.
  • A Mirrorless Camera sensor ranges from about 6-23mm.
  • The sensor in a DSLR depends on the format of the camera.
    • Micro Four Thirds cameras have sensors that usually measure 17 mm,
    • The longest edge of the APS-C sensor is approximately 23 mm,
    • Full-frame sensors are 36x 24 mm.

The larger sensor costs more and the more space it takes in the camera. A larger lens is also required to throw light over the entire sensor surface. That’s another reason why phone cameras are so small: a large lens would make them less pocketable. However, if you are serious about image quality, a larger sensor performs better in low light, provides better depth of field control, is less affected by digital noise and offers a higher dynamic range.

Which Format Raw or JPEG?

All DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras, and some compact high-end cameras allow you to save your pictures as RAW or JPEG files. Which you choose often depends on your shooting style and how fast you need the pictures. But the differences between them are worth appreciating.



JPEG Format

JPEG is a standardized image file that your camera has processed. Any image editing or viewing software can read this type of file and is ready to print or display immediately. JPEG format images are compressed when saved. So that they take up less digital storage space than RAW files. This means you can save more JPEGs on a memory card.

Some of the data from the initial exposure are lost during the compression process and each time the image is saved, more data is lost. JPEGs are usually sharper than RAW files due to in-camera processing and have higher contrast. However, the dynamic range is lower, which means that it is easier to lose detail in extremely light or dark tones, as these areas instead turn pure white or pure black.

Raw Format

The RAW files are not processed. So you must put them on your computer to edit your photo software to adjust sharpness, contrast, color, and many more elements. Before they can be easily shared or printed into JPEGs or TIFF. Each camera brand uses its own Raw file format, which means that you need to check the compatibility of the image editing software you choose.

The main advantage of shooting RAW files is that all the image information recorded by the camera is uncompressed. This allows you to make more decisions at the post-production stage about things such as white balance. It also means that the file will contain more details in areas of extreme light and dark tones. This means that raw files are much larger than JPEG files. A single RAW file takes up the same amount of space as two or three JPEG images on your memory card.

Some cameras allow you to record both types of images at once. So you can quickly evaluate your images using the JPEGs and decide which ones to work on later. In general, if you are happy to process the Raw files later and need the maximum amount of leeway to adjust the image, use Raw. If not, get as much in the camera as possible and save time by shooting JPEGs.

Before you go…

READ: Portrait Photography Basics – Lenses

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